Aztalan State Park

Location: Aztalan, Wisconsin

Webpage: Wisconsin State Park

General Description: Aztalan is an historical archeological site that represents the northern most example of the Middle Mississippian Tradition.  The center of this culture was located at Cahokia and Aztalan was likely a satellite community connected by rivers to Cahokia on the Mississippi River.  Aztalan was settled around 900 A.D. and was a thriving community for over 300 years. The reasons for abandoning the site are not known but it is likely a combination of environmental resources, pressures from other native cultures, and the mini-Ice Age in 1300s.  The Middle Mississippian Tradition is characterized by the building of large earth mounds and stockades of which there is limited surviving evidence at Aztalan.  The ruins were discovered in 1835 by Timothy Johnson and the first rough survey was done in 1837 by N.F. Hyer.  He attempted to preserve the site, however, President Van Buren refused the request and sold the land in 1838.  The mounds were leveled for easier farming and pottery shards and “Aztalan bricks” were removed to fill potholes and sold for souvenirs.  In 1919 the State Historical Society began the process of purchasing the land and reconstructing the mounds and stockade, work that continued on and off until Aztalan State Park was established in 1952.  Original surveys and archeological research has located the original stockade and three of the mounds on the site.

Brochure

Impressions:

1) As Middle Mississippian Tradition sites go, Aztalan is relatively small with just three mounds of moderate height.  However, it is significant as it is the northern most site for this culture that has been found.  Unfortunately, the original mounds were leveled for farming and most of the artifacts have been removed over the years.  Today you can walk to the top of each of the restored mounds and get a sense of the townsite.  The stockades around two sides of the site also help.

2) There is a small trailer being used as a Visitor Center with plans for a new facility in the future.  The volunteer manning the trailer was knowledgeable about the site although his knowledge about the Mississippian culture was limited.

3) In addition to the mowed walking trails around the townsite, there is also a nice short hike through their efforts to restore a small section of the native prairie and grasslands.

Prairie